By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
GREENVILLE — After two years of canceled parades due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Greenville’s St. Patrick’s Day parade was a joyful affair with hundreds of people marching and lining the parade route.
Marchers and floats lined up outside St. John’s Roman Catholic Church at noon, proceeded down Route 81 and turned onto Route 32 as crowds waved and cheered.
It was the first St. Patrick’s Day parade since 2019; the event was canceled for two consecutive years due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“Just getting the people back and letting them know that we are still celebrating Irish heritage, has been wonderful,” parade Co-chairperson Betty Hayden said. “As long as we still have the Greenville Irish American Club, this parade will go on.”
The club sponsors the parade each year. This year was supposed to be the parade’s 49th, but the canceled events in 2020 and 2021 made this year the 47th.
Co-chairperson Anne Lafferty was one of the parade’s founding members and has been organizing it all those years. She was glad to see the parade’s return this year.
“It’s wonderful to see, after two years of not being able to have the parade,” Lafferty said. “Finally, we were able to have it and it felt great.”
Marchers came from across Greenville and the county, including the sheriff’s office, fire companies, an Irish dance troupe[LL1] , Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, the Knights of Columbus Our Lady of Knock Council in East Durham, students from Scott Ellis Elementary School, the Cairo-Durham High School marching band and many more.
The green, orange and white of Ireland’s flag joined American flags flapping in the breeze, while bands played Irish music.
The holiday is in honor of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, Lafferty said.
She and Hayden are both strong proponents of making sure their native country’s heritage and traditions remain strong.
“We need to fight to keep the Irish heritage alive,” Hayden said. “It was great to see so many people come out today.”
The parade’s grand marshal this year was Tara Tolan, who was originally supposed to serve as grand marshal in 2019.
“I was supposed to be the grand marshal two years ago and it was canceled, so this is the first parade we’ve had since then,” Tolan said. “It’s amazing to have the parade back after two years.”
Members of the Greenville Irish American Club spend months organizing the parade, she said.
“For a lot of people, it’s just a small hour of marching, but we start [organizing] this usually in January and it’s something we look forward to from the minute we start,” Tolan said. “To be able to do that again and to see everybody is just heart-warming.”
At the parade’s conclusion, everyone gathered in front of the Greenville Public Library, with the national anthems of both Ireland and the U.S., along with other patriotic songs, performed. Hayden waxed nostalgic about the many years the parade has taken place.
“It’s so good to see everyone here today,” she told the crowd. “All the little ones — and some of the bigger ones who were in carriages when I first started and now some of them are married with little ones of their own. It’s amazing to see how time flies. I am so happy we are all here today.”
Following the ceremony on the library’s steps, everyone headed over to the cafeteria at Scott Ellis Elementary School a couple of doors down for refreshments and fellowship.
Here are more photos from the parade: